Sunday, August 19, 2012
Dreams The Ragman - by Greg F. Gifune - The stuff nightmares are made of
When Derrick was a little boy, his grandfather used to tell him stories about the Ragman. "An impossibly old man crippled with various ailments, his body curved and bent with arthritis, The Ragman rode a derelict, horse-drawn wagon along the city streets...calling out 'Rags!'
This novella grabbed me right from the start, maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember The Ragman, yeah, we had one in the town where I grew up, too. He fit the author's description to a tee. Right down to the "whip in one hand and a rusty bell even older than he was in the other." The Ragman would buy rags, newspapers and assorted bits of junk. In my neighborhood, he would travel up and down the alleys yelling "Rags!" and ringing his bell. I remember my Mother telling me if I didn't behave, she'd sell me to The Ragman.
But Dreams The Ragman is more than a story of a scary old man.
Derrick's grandfather used to tell him of The Ragman. Telling young Derrick that The Ragman needs to eat and never stops until he gets his fill. When asked "What does The Ragman eat?" his grandfather would tell him "Souls."
In his teenage years Derrick came to associate a series of murders with The Ragman. Thirteen victims, over a span of three years and across six states. "While not exactly what his grandfather had described to him, a deranged hobo riding the rails and murdering unsuspecting townsfolk seemed close enough."
At the time of the murders, Derrick's closest friend was Caleb. The two tried to get inside the mind of The Ragman, tried to figure where he would go between murders, but over time Caleb becomes quite the junkie and the friends are separated by distance and circumstance. Now it's 30 years later and when the news comes about a pair of murders in Sheppard Beach, New Hampshire, Derrick knows he must go and that Caleb would be there, too. This could be his last chance to save his friend and possibly himself.
Sheppard Beach was once a luxurious resort that like so many of it's kind has fallen on hard times. The writer's description of such a place is dead on and his characters are genuine and well developed. It is evident throughout that Gifune is, in the words of Ed Gorman, "Among the finest dark suspense writers of our time."
Dreams The Ragman is an expertly layered tale of friendship, choices and redemption. If you're not already reading Greg F. Gifune then let me recommend you start with this brilliant novella.
Now available as an e-book in the Kindle format.